DAY TWO – We’ll enjoy an early morning departure to catch dawn’s first light to hit Cozumel Island, soft and gentle morning breezes are also when the birds are most active. We’ll journey into the central portion of the island to look for a few of Cozumel’s endemic birds. While Cozumel Thrasher may be extinct (the small population’s tenacious existence may have been wiped out by multiple severe hurricanes within the last decade), Cozumel Vireo, Cozumel Emerald, Cozumel Wren, Western Spindalis (Stripe-headed Tanager), Black Catbird, Yucatan Vireo, Yucatan Woodpecker, Caribbean Dove, Caribbean Elaenia and several endemic races of common mainland species are to be expected. If the group elects to visit other portions of Cozumel, we’ll rent a vehicle and explore the island more fully. There are scenic beaches, striking lighthouses, good birding, a national park that offers good snorkeling and a thousand different options. In the late afternoon we’ll travel by ferry back to the bustling resort city of Playa del Carmen. Night Playa del Carmen
DAY THREE – Early departure for northern parts of the Sian Ka’an Biosphere reserve. Sunrise find us traveling through coastal forests as we make a special effort to find another endemic of the Yucatan Peninsula—Orange Oriole. We found a colony of these birds way back in ’94, and, although it may not be active this year, we should still be able to see several of these brilliant orioles somewhere in the neighborhood.
DAY FOUR – An early morning departure to visit what may be remembered as one of your favorite birding areas of the trip—the Sian Ka’an Biosphere Reserve. We make a predawn departure so that we’ll have opportunity to reach a bit further into the reserve’s tropical forests. Encompassing thousands of square miles, the Sian Ka’an supports the largest tract of undeveloped habitat along the Caribbean coast of Quintana Roo. This is our best chance to have close encounters with Yucatan Parrot , Royal Flycatcher and a host of tropical forest species.
We’ll enjoy lunch at the nearby city of Felipe Carillo Puerto with an afternoon drive to the Calakmul Biosphere Reserve. Night birding potential here is high and, if our group is up to it, we might search for owls, nightjars and potoos after dark. Night Calakmul.
DAY FIVE – We’ll enjoy an early breakfast so that sunrise will find us amid the expansive Calakmul Biosphere Reserve. The humid forest here has much more of a tropical flair when compared to the dry, scrub forest found across the northern Yucatan Peninsula. This tropical vegetation results in more diversity of species—plants, animals, insects and birds.
DAY SIX – Our final morning in the reserve will be spent birding areas of Calakmul we haven’t had a chance to visit or to make a final effort for species we might have missed to this point. On past tours, we’ve pushed into the heart of the taller, more humid forest as quickly as possible to increase our chances of more ‘big forest’ birds.
DAY SEVEN – During our stay at Coba, we’ll stay at a newly constructed hotel near the village. After the closing of the venerable Villa Arqueologica, it’s the best available lodging close to the ruins. Simple, but clean with air-conditioning and hot water showers it’s our best option by far. From our hotel it’s a short drive to the nearby lake where we can scan the edges for grebes, herons, bitterns, Ruddy Crakes and other aquatic birds. The entire day will be spent exploring near Coba along the lake edge and in the forests surrounding the ruins. On recent visits, birding and hiking amid the ruins and along the edges of Lake Coba we’ve found Spotted Rail, Ruddy Crake, Least Bittern and other waders, Gray and Roadside Hawks, Northern Jaçana, Blue and Ruddy Ground-Doves, Cinnamon Hummingbird, Great Kiskadee, Mangrove Swallow, Gray-crowned Yellowthroat and White-collared Seedeater. Later, as we walked among the ruins, flocks of Olive-throated Parakeets, Canivet’s (Fork-tailed) Emerald, Red-vented (Yucatan) and Golden-fronted Woodpeckers, flycatchers (Brown-crested, Social and Greenish and Yellow-bellied Elaenias), Green Jay, Clay-colored Robin, Rufous-browed Peppershrike, Grayish and Black-headed Saltators and many orioles (Black-cowled, Yellow-backed and Altamira). Even among the many colorful tropical birds, our wintering warblers and Painted Buntings were standouts. The arid scrub south of Coba produced Red-billed Pigeon, Squirrel and Pheasant Cuckoos, Ferruginous Pygmy Owl, Collared Araçari, Keel-billed Toucan, Bright-rumped Attila, Masked Tityra, Yucatan Jay, Mangrove and Yucatan Vireos and Blue Bunting.
An afternoon siesta is in order during the heat of midday, as we’ll have our best night birding opportunities in the countryside near Coba. Vermiculated Screech-Owl, Mottled Owl, Black-and-white Owl, Yucatan Nightjar, Yucatan Poorwill or a potoo hawking moths from its perch atop a bare snag are all possible. It’s a tradition on our tours to enjoy at least one sunset from the dock on the lake watching the Pauraques, Yucatan Nightjars and monstrous Marine Toads. Night Coba.
DAY EIGHT – Our last morning exploring the lakes and forests around Coba. We’ll target any species that have eluded us thus far. It’s likely that we’ll enjoy lunch near Coba before beginning our short drive to Valladolid.
DAY NINE – Sunrise will find us in the Northern Yucatan beginning a day filled with memorable events. We’ll target two local endemics of the Yucatan (Mexican Sheartail and Yucatan Wren), enjoy an amazing boat tour of the Rio Lagartos estuary for close-up views of American Flamingos and a wide variety of waterbirds and hike a boardwalk trail through thick, seasonally flooded forest. On our boat trip through the lagoons, colorful American Flamingos (which nest in the estuary), odd Boat-billed Herons, a complete roster of herons & egrets, Roseate Spoonbill, American Pygmy Kingfisher, Jabiru (a recently arrived nesting resident) and many other waterbirds are to be expected. After lunch in the village, we’ll explore other coastal areas and scrubby habitats inland for the area’s specialties—Yucatan Wren, Yucatan Bobwhite, Mexican Sheartail, Lesser Roadrunner, White-lored Gnatcatcher and Zenaida Dove before our return. Night Valladolid.
DAY TEN – The nearby village of Dzitnup hosts a nice selection of butterflies and birds in the scrub habitats around the village. One locale has been particularly reliable for Singing Quail. Dzitnup is also the scene of a Mayan cenote, or underground water-filled sinkhole. We’ll introduce you to the cenotes, and you’ll have a chance to experience them up close. We’ll be back to town in time for lunch and a final walk around the zocalo before we depart for Chichen Itza.
Located a short distance west from Valladolid is the magnificent Mayan city of Chichen Itza. Perhaps the most impressive ruin site of the Mayan Empire, Chichen Itza is unforgettable. As are the birds! Colorful orioles, buntings and warblers, seldom seen goodies like Yucatan Nightjar, Singing Quail and Pheasant Cuckoo and tropical treats such as Collared Araçari, White-fronted Parrot and Turquoise-browed Motmot can all be found on the grounds of our luxury hotel. Night Chichen Itza.
DAY ELEVEN – A full morning of birding and sightseeing near the ruins of Chichen Itza. Sunrise will find us walking trails near the older section of ruins. Flycatchers, hummingbirds, orioles and colorful Turquoise-browed Motmots are but a few of the avian gems we’ll encounter. After breakfast, we’ll enjoy our visit to the Post Classic Mayan period ruins of Chichen Itza. This ancient city has been impressively restored, and wandering about the magnificent structures leaves an enduring impact. Be sure to bring plenty of film or memory chips for your camera. On my first visit to Chichen Itza, I went through more than 9 rolls of film! (You’re lucky that digital photography renders that particular hardship obsolete!) It’s difficult not to be overwhelmed when viewing these monuments of the gifted ancient Maya.
DAY TWELVE – One final morning in Mexico! We’ll enjoy a walk around the beautiful hotel grounds and trails before breakfast. After breakfast, our schedule will be determined by your flights—we’ll have you back in Cancun two hours before your planes depart. You’ll return home with enough memories of tropical forests, birds and ruins to last until your next visit to Mexico!